Treating Employee Substance Abuse Is Cost-Effective

Originally published by: EHS TodayJanuary 15, 2021

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While helping employees deal with any issue is always the best course of action, a new study shows that from a financial perspective it costs less to help people battling substance abuse than to let it go untreated.

Post-its of people with middle post-it reading Employee Substance Abuse

The annual average additional costs to an employer for each worker with an untreated substance use disorder have risen 30% in just three years, according to findings from NORC at the University of Chicago and the National Safety Council. Employers spend an average of $8,817 annually on each employee with an untreated substance abuse problem

Those in recovery miss 13.7 fewer days each year than workers and even 3.6 fewer days than an average employee.

Looking at other costs, health insurance premiums, the average employer pays $2,918 in health insurance premiums for workers without substance use disorders, compared to $4,770 for those with disorders. That figure slips for those is recovery to $3,961.

Why should companies get involved? Well, there are a number of reasons. One is that at this point abuse rates are so high that 1 in 12 employees are dealing with this issue so that means every organization is affected by this whether or not they know it.

 And of course, abuse is up due to COVID-19. More than forty states have reported increases in substance misuse and opioid-related overdoses as people grapple with stress and mental health issues brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic, the study reports.

And this study shows that programs initiated by employers are more successful than those suggested by friends or family members.

To help employers understand the costs, the  NSC and NORC at the University of Chicago have updated the Substance Use Cost Calculator.

 NSC has also created the Opioids at Work Employer Toolkit to help employers implement policies for addressing substance misuse in the workplace. To download the free toolkit, click here.

But while saving money is of course important, the real reason to help is that lives can be saved.